Craig Taborn: Suggesting Textural Dimension
AAJ: Well, saying you want to write to accommodate all that movement and possibility is one thing, but how to do it is quite another. It really comes down a lot to the people involved in the execution, I think.
CT: That's the whole point, in a way. If you get that stuff going then you have to find people who are going to think that way and respond to it which for me means finding people who listen a certain way, who have certain awareness of other things and who technically can execute certain things, and who are open to it. It quickly starts to incorporate a bunch of things.
AAJ: It occurs to me that the ingredients to this aesthetic you're trying to achieve would only be found in the New York 'Downtown' scene.
CT: The demographic favors this area but I think, everywhere I go, there's always somebody there. I think the difference is that it's not always supported. There's not a rarefaction of that quality in all these scenes. You have to be a force of one to really make it happen somewhere. Again, if you take the Happy Apple guys . The stuff is amazing, but' they're definitely there for each other, and that's a real test of your creative wherewithal'to make something like that happen in your own environment and create or generate your own scene. There's a lot of creativity everywhere but it's just having that tenacity to stick it out and start developing and saying, 'I am going to make this happen here.' I see it in different towns a lot. When you're in New York, there are so many people trying to do that stuff it's actually easier to find people to play your music. Whereas I know firsthand that living in other places, it's not that easy.
AAJ: Can you tell us your ideas around the electric, or electronic concept? Do you think the community will see it as the next step in the NuBop, Equilibrium, DJ Spooky, Spring Heel Jack thing or will that, of course, be too easy?
CT: It'll be too easy. Probably because knowing those other records my thing will have little to do with the approach those guys took. I have a different awareness of what the electronic thing than what they were dealing with.
AAJ: More organic?
CT: It might be more organic on a level but then again, maybe not on another..it's hard to say.I mean I've just done electronic stuff for so long and had a certain interaction with the electronic music world that they're from. So I think my thing'there are things that will dovetail but I think my idea of it is a little different. Their thing is kind of breakbeat oriented. It has kind of an ambient thing and then kind of a hip-hop thing or whatever. In a certain sense, hip-hop as a certain kind of a breakbeat, and that may not be what I do. I don't really think of electronic music as necessarily embodied by coming out of 1990's urban youth culture. I see it in a broader sense. In jazz alone I can trace it to the 50s. There's a long tradition of electric, maybe not electronic, stuff. If you start talking about Rhodes or electric piano you've got to go back there. If you start talking about organ things that aren't Hammond B-3, you have to go back to Sun Ra at that time. There are some other immediate early references that kids are dealing with in electronic music now.
In jazz, it's really nothing new. It starts with Sun Ra's use of electric piano whether it be prototype Wurlys or Rhodes, as well as his use of electric bass. In a large sense his music concepts, in terms of things that are sort of Afro-derived. Certain bass ostinatos that electric bass is playing, repetitive figures on the drums, layered drumming, backbeats, dub tempos or funk tempos, a backbeat with a bass line that's repeating-all that stuff is there-the template of it. If you talk about specific technologies, you can start narrowing it down, which is what a lot of people mean these days when they talk about a beat-it means a sampled beat-but I don't really think of beats that way. What's old what's not? What's new about a beat? In that context'.
AAJ: That leads to the usual influences question' if you want to get into that.
CT: That gets deep'I have a lot of influences.
AAJ: And Sun Ra's a big one?
CT: For a number of things, and there's a lot of other ones. That's not to say I don't like'there's a number of hip-hop people and techno people who I'm very enamored of and there's a lot of things that have developed in terms of conception and process there. I just identify it as part of a larger'so'
AAJ: Well, I've read you were heavily influenced by Sun Ra and the AACM as a young man. Hard to imagine a teenager, say 15 to 20 years ago, being influenced by those musics'it's a wonderful thing.
CT: More and more there's a scene of young people influenced by those things. I think when I was a kid in the 80's it was weirder (laughs) than now, especially in Minnesota, but it was the public library there.
AAJ: It was great that you felt all that. I sense we're done with influences.
CT: It gets to be too much. Not a cop out, just a lot of stuff. In terms of current or past stuff, I buy stuff across the timeline, as it were.